Publishing Your Manuscript: What’s Taking So Long? (By Catherine A. Cherrstrom, P.O.W.E.R. Consultant)


Publishing Your Manuscript: What’s Taking So Long?

By Catherine A. Cherrstrom, P.O.W.E.R. Consultant


Congratulations!  You completed the research, wrote your manuscript, hit the submit button, and then…


you wait,

                                    and wait,

                                                            and wait,

                                                                                    and wait.

                                                                                                            What’s taking so long?


As a journal’s managing editor (not the editor) my job is to facilitate manuscripts’ movement through the submission, review, and hopefully for the author(s), production, and publishing process.  The purpose of this blog post is to share tips from my experience for efficiently moving a manuscript through the review process.  Your manuscript will move through a process comprised of four “R” questions:  Review?  Reviewers?  Revise or reject?  Re-review, reject, or rejoice?


Before reviewing the four “R” questions, who is asking and answering these questions?  The editor(s)!  Editors are busy people who often serve in this capacity in addition to full-time jobs.  So, how can you make the editors’ job easier?  By understanding and anticipating the four “R” questions, you can influence your manuscript’s efficient advancement through the editors’ decision process.  Let’s begin with the first “R” question and decision point.


1.  Review?  After you hit the submit button, the editors’ first decision point is whether to send your manuscript for review.  Authors dread the infamous “thank you for submitting your manuscript, but it does not fit the journal’s scope.”  To avoid rejection at this first decision point, review the author guidelines found on the journal’s website.  Guidelines typically detail the journal’s scope, methodologies, audience, types of articles, minimum and maximum word counts, and formatting.


Next, ask yourself what types of manuscripts have the editors recently published?  I suggest examining recently published articles for content, organization, and format and outlining an article to identify important manuscript sections.  Following these tips facilitates your manuscript’s movement to the second “R” question and decision point.


2.  Reviewers?  The editors strive to identify the best reviewers for your manuscript.  Most academic journals use a blind review process in which two to four scholars in the field review a manuscript’s merits without knowing your identity or institution.  Guess what?  Reviewers are busy people who often serve in this capacity in addition to full-time jobs.  So, how can you make the reviewers’ job easier?  In order to ensure the best possible match of reviewers for your manuscript, follow the author guidelines, include a strong abstract, clearly state the manuscript’s purpose, and write an organized article.


Reviewers provide feedback to the editors and authors and recommend accept, conditional accept upon revision, revise and resubmit, or reject the manuscript.  Most manuscripts receive revise and resubmit or reject recommendations.  (Conditional accept upon revision is rare and accept is virtually nonexistent at this point in the process.)  The reviewers’ feedback and recommendations lead to the third “R” question and decision point.


3. Revise or reject?  Sometimes reviewers provide different recommendations and conflicting feedback.  Editors review all the input and make a decision.  Then, the editors’ decision and reviewers’ feedback and recommendations are communicated to the author(s).  If you have the opportunity to revise your manuscript, use the feedback and revise within the word count parameters.  I recommend writing an author’s response letter, detailing your actions on each piece of feedback.  If you choose not to take action on a piece of feedback, perhaps because of conflicting feedback, explain why.  Your revised manuscript and response letter lead to the final “R” question and decision point.


4.  Re-review, reject, or rejoice?  In the final decision point, the editors carefully examine the revised manuscript to determine if you made the required changes.  Often, the manuscript must be re-reviewed adding months to the process.  If your revisions did not address the feedback and strengthen the manuscript, the editors may reject the manuscript ending the process.  However, if you make the required revisions, helping the editor see and understand the revisions in your author response letter, the editors may decide to accept your manuscript for publication…leading to the best “R” of all—REJOICE!


Lastly, I must warn you…the waiting is not over.  Journals often have long production queues—from several months to years.  Avoid publication delays by quickly submitting the publication agreement and responding to emails.  While you wait, add the new publication to your CV or resume as accepted or in press.  Finally, you will see your name in print and manuscript published!